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Due to the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, around 35 per cent of workers in the readymade garment sector saw a wage cut. This sector has been hit hard due to a number of factors during the pandemic, including market closure, delays in shipment, delayed payment for products and more. This has increased the risks for workers. Many businesses have shrunk and many have lost their jobs. The wages of many workers who have retained their jobs, have been reduced.

Earnings may have dropped, but prices haven’t. This has got the readymade garment workers entangled in debt.

These observations were made in a study entitled ‘The weakest link in the global supply chain: How the pandemic is affecting Bangladesh garments workers.’

The study was highlighted in a virtual event inaugurated by UNDP resident representative Sudeepto Mukherjee. He called upon the business community and all others to work together to face the challenges ahead in order to ensure sustainable development of the sector.

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The study, jointly conducted by UNDP and California University’s Chowdhury Centre for Bangladesh Studies and the Institute for Human Rights, revealed the various risks faced by readymade garment industry workers, women workers in particular, during the prevalence of coronavirus.

Secretary of the labour and employment ministry, KM Abdus Salam, speaking at the virtual event, highlighted the initiatives adopted by the government for the readymade garment workers during the ongoing restrictions. He also reiterated the commitment regarding the health safety and development of the workplace.

As part of this study, from October 2020 to February 2021, international buyers, Bangladeshi suppliers, civil society representatives and workers of the readymade garment industry, were extensively interviewed. The study recommended that proper application of the law be ensured to reduce the risks faced by the workers due to the spike in coronavirus transmission.

BGMEA president Faruque Hassan highlighted the initiatives taken with the support of the government for the health safety of the workers, including setting up isolation centres, PCR labs, etc. He also discussed keeping the factories open while maintaining the health and hygiene protocol. He reiterated BGMEA’s commitment to protect the workers’ health in the Covid situation.

In this study funded by the Swedish government, the researchers said that the present Covid situation should be tackled on the basis of previous experience.

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